The Reno County Commission on Tuesday approved a nearly $104,000 contract with a Wichita architect to create detailed design drawings and bid specifications for an interior remodel of the county courthouse — though some Commissioners are not entirely satisfied with the plan.

A company director, GLMV Architecture, said it could take eight months to complete the plans before construction begins.

The commission had hoped new commission chambers would be ready when the council grows to five members in January. There is also pressure to begin remodeling the fifth floor to provide more space for the Reno County District Attorney’s office.

The remodeling of the historic courthouse is estimated to cost at least $1.6 million, including furnishings, with work being done on every floor.

The wish is to make better use of space in a partially empty building since most county offices moved to the annex across the street in June 2016.

In addition to the new commission chambers, modifications to the ground floor include the conversion of the existing commission chambers and county administrator’s office into five new offices for commissioners and a meeting room for sessions. executives of the committee.

The second level of the Reno County Courthouse, which previously housed property record storage, will be converted to space for the IT department.

Other changes include adding three offices to the southeast corner of the fourth floor, expanding the jury deliberation room to the third floor, and moving the county’s information technology department to the second floor. .

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To accomplish the latter, it is proposed to install a footbridge linking the north and south mezzanines, to make them both accessible to people with disabilities.

For fire safety, a second set of stairs will be installed between the fourth and fifth floors on the east side, and the third floor hallway will be modified to connect to a fire stairway.

Bradley Doeden with GLMV, County Maintenance Manager Harlan Depew and County Administrator Randy Partington presented the proposed design contract to the commission on Tuesday, based on a spatial survey completed last year.

Partington noted that the architects worked with every department of the courthouse to come up with the design and will meet with them at least once more “to make sure we’ve covered all aspects of the building…and so we don’t overlook any department or agency in the process.

Why eight months?

Doeden said they might be able to get plans drawn up and launch a bid before eight months, but “a lot of variables are involved.”

“I am disappointed with this figure,” said commissioner Ron Sellers. “We owe it to the district attorney to make sure the fifth floor is taken care of. We also owe the five members of the commission to have a room that can accommodate five members and 40 chairs for the public. This room (county annex conference room) was sometimes full this spring. There are not enough chairs to sit on. »

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Commissioner Ron Hirst also said he would like the deadline to be expedited.

“But at the same time, we don’t want to make mistakes and come back and the construction guys are saying ‘it’s not in the plan, so it’s still going to be $100,000,'” Hirst said. costs, to me, are bad planning.”

Depew said there had been enough conversations with department heads during the development of the plans that they might be able to get ‘approval and buy-in’ earlier than expected and move the schedule forward. .

The sellers offered to approve the contract, which Hirst seconded.

But Commission President Daniel Friesen has raised concerns about the proposed design of the commission chambers.

This is a view of the ground floor of the Reno County Courthouse from the north side mezzanine.  A new commission chamber, which will be created with prefabricated walls 10 feet high and 45 seats, will go where the chairs are set up in this photo.  The information technology department will be relocated to the north mezzanine.

“The panels look a bit like entering a cabin station,” Friesen said, referring to the proposed 10-foot-tall pre-engineered partial walls with a baffled ceiling.

Doeden said they could explore other options, but he didn’t have a breakdown of the cost of each part of the bedroom design, only an overall cost including furniture estimated at more than $180,000.

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Friesen then suggested continuing to use the meeting room in the annex for committee meetings and adding two more offices, which Hirst said he could be okay with, pending better estimates. cost on alternative designs.

Questions about non-compliance with historic courthouse naming rules

“It seems like the open space (in the courthouse) is still very inefficient when it comes to using space,” Friesen said.

He then asked what would happen if the county decided not to follow the rules imposed due to the historic designation of the building and fence off the area.

Doeden said he wasn’t sure, but he worked with a school renovation project in Emporia “where there were fines and penalties,” and the project “eventually stopped.”

Hirst said the county should ask if parts of the building could be removed from the historic list, but sellers objected.

An area on the fifth floor of the Reno County Courthouse, currently used for storage, will be converted to additional offices, improved file storage and a conference room for the district attorney's office.

“I would say you’re both wrong to even consider removing the majesty from the courthouse,” Seller said. “We should be doing things to make it look like it is, to develop that look and not do things to take it away.”

“You can still do things and respect history,” Friesen said, noting there had to be a balance between the desires of the State Historical Society and taxpayers.

Doeden clarified that the architectural fee would be the same regardless of the final project.

The second-floor remodeling of the Reno County Courthouse will include building a walkway along the west wall to connect to the north loft, which has only stairs, to the south loft, which has a lift, making both handicapped accessible.  A new conference room is also planned on the south side.

Noting that they agreed on the need to proceed with the prosecutor’s office and other elements, and that they could debate the commission chambers later, Sellers called for the vote, which passed at the unanimity.

The commission asked for an update in 45 to 60 days.